Trees for Life is home to the first (known) rewilding centre in the UK and their vision is of a revitalised wild forest in the Highlands of Scotland, providing space for wildlife to flourish and communities to thrive.
Trees for Life has owned the Dundreggan Estate since 2008, with 10,000 acres of mountain and forest in the highlands of Scotland, not far from Loch Ness. The rewilding work being undertaken at Dundreggan has a significant cost to the charity and they needed to create a sustainable revenue stream for the estate to support itself going forwards.
The broader aim of the charity is to rewild 500,000 acres of Scotland in an area called Affric Highlands, enabling wild forest to return and peatlands to be restored to encourage the wildlife and biodiversity to grow and flourish. Dundreggan sits in the middle of this area and so they wanted to find a way for it to explain this work, sharing information about rewilding and its benefits.
They came up with the idea of a rewilding centre, a place where people can come and learn what rewilding is, seeing it in action for themselves.
There’s no other rewilding centre in the UK (and probably in the world!).
They want the centre at Dundreggan to act as an education and empowerment hub, inspiring visitors to go away and do some rewilding for themselves, perhaps by planting a native tree in their own garden or finding out more and supporting rewilding schemes across the country.
For local businesses, they hope to show how having a ‘nature positive’ business can be profitable, adding an environmentally sympathetic use to traditional estates. The centre will also support the local economy through the creation of jobs and income brought by those visiting the centre and the surrounding area.
Projections assume that the Rewilding Centre attracts 29,000 visitors in the first year it is open, growing to 70,000 by 2030. Two thirds of visitors buy an activity pass to access the paid for elements of the site, with one third accessing only the free elements.
Income is generated not only by the purchase of an activity pass, but also through the café, retail sales and the option to donate to plant a tree on entering the site.
Many people working in rewilding are excited by the opportunities the centre will offer for connection and convening. They’ve been told that they push boundaries and part of this is to encourage the land management sector in Scotland to adopt a more holistic ‘rewilding’ approach, by working with nature and not against it.
They consciously chose to make this a ‘rewilding’, as opposed to a ‘forest’, centre as part of changing the conversation and to demonstrate that, as well as being good for biodiversity, rewilding can be profitable. Our approach is pioneering, but it has the potential to be transformational.
“From the start we felt a sense of shared values and the fact that the bank focused on pioneering projects, working for long-term change, ticked all our boxes. We found that Triodos wants to innovate. It is mindful of risk, but is prepared to push things further than others, to make real change. The bank’s ground-breaking attitude is backed up by pragmatism to make sure things don’t go too far or too fast – and that feels very similar to how Trees for Life works.”
Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life
“We know that many people across the country have a passion for protecting the UK’s native wildlife and are interested in seeing how rewilding can play a part in tackling the climate emergency and biodiversity loss. We’re really pleased to be helping Trees for Life in bringing about the world’s first rewilding centre.”
Diana Gerry, Corporate Finance Manager at Triodos Bank UK